FOURTH TURNING ALERT. John Hawkins at Right Wing News offers sobering thoughts about the latest attacks on Israel.
The road to a lasting peace in Lebanon leads through Iran and Syria. When they start to become afraid that this fighting will hurt them, they'll tell Hezbollah to cool it.
The post also suggests that Hezbollah is losing.
Which side wants an immediate ceasefire? Lebanon, right? They're losing. Which side wants to continue fighting? Israel, right? They're winning.
A commander will not propose to fight it out on that line if it takes all summer if that is not a good line to fight it out on.
WHO'S ON FIRST? As of this morning, look who's No. 1 in the Blogshares International Economics Industry. Yes, it's all funny money, but thanks for the attention all the same. Brian Gongol's Traffic Rankings (via Newmark's Door) lists the Shops among the sites with no public referrer logs along with the likes of Crooked Timber, Marginal Revolution, Voluntary Xchange, Freakonomics, and Atlantic Blog.

It's a hobby and I'm not going to worry about potentially unreliable referrer logs. Sitemeter identifies about 100 visits a day and 130-150 page views, whilst the Ecosystem (with a revised counting algorithm) reports about 90. But I put in a cheap counter that suggests a slightly larger visit count.


MOST MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS ARE NOT WORKING POOR. Most working poor earn more than minimum wage. That's something I learned working through a paper I had to comment on at the Western Economic Association conference in San Diego. (Yes, there were responsibilities that intruded on the sightseeing.) There's a summary of what we know about these non-overlapping subsets of the work force at Betsy's Page that I recommend you read through (with the cross-references. Disregard the polemics.)

At about the time I was packing to leave, there was a bit of posting about the economics of the minimum wage at Marginal Revolution and Cafe Hayek, much of which focused on ideologies when it wasn't focusing on econometric niceties. Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux points to a column he wrote for Tech Central Station that suggests the econometric niceties might be, well, not so nice.

First, a higher proportion of empirical research in the social sciences is subject to legitimate -- oftentimes irresolvable -- dispute. Second, as a consequence, in the social sciences theoretical considerations inevitably play a larger role in navigating around these disputes and in forming judgments about desirable public policies.

And so it is with the minimum wage. Almost any empirical study of this government mandate can be challenged for ignoring this variable, for mis-identifying that variable, for focusing on an inappropriate time period, or for countless other possible errors. Therefore, following Tyler Cowen, we are justified in being extraordinarily skeptical of empirical findings that are inconsistent with widely accepted theoretical foundations.

Minimum-wage studies that find no negative effects on the employment prospects of low-skilled workers are whoppingly inconsistent with basic economics -- a fact that means that they are probably inaccurate.

On the other hand, there might be room for further research. (There's always room for further research. There is no shortage of interesting questions in economics. Tractable in a way that survives scrutiny is another matter.) Take that "inconsistent with widely accepted theoretical foundations." That could mean "the four or five technically proficient theorems that satisfied referees at American Economic Review and Econometrica." What's that John McGee line about "never heard of Williamson and Scherer and simply blunders in" with respect to strategic behavior? Perhaps agents are acting under different constraints or facing incentives that haven't been as well thought through yet. (High occupancy toll lanes exist despite any number of theorems about the optimality of a single price for all users of a congestible facility.) That "no negative effects" merits further review as well. The effect of a minimum wage on hours worked might be "negative but not statistically significant," a phrase that often substitutes for thought. (On the other hand, we may have more precise estimating methods as part of the quest for theoretically pure data that yields the right results.) But does that phrase suggest that fewer people are working, yet total compensation to minimum wage workers has increased? Room for further research, indeed.
AN IRRELEVANT ALTERNATIVE? Capital Times editor Dave Zweifel reviews the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion.

The federal government's Transportation Department has just issued a "white paper" on reducing traffic congestion in the country and guess what? It doesn't include a word about how improvement of either passenger or freight rail in America might be able to help.

Once more, the powers-that-be in Washington are determined to put all the nation's transportation eggs essentially in one basket more and bigger highways with a small sop to improving some airport traffic control systems.

Mr Zweifel would like to see more reliance on the railroads.
Why leaders of this administration can't understand that to put 500 people on a train essentially removes 500 cars from the highway is nothing short of perplexing unless, of course, road builders just have better connections and more money.
I'll yield to nobody in my enthusiasm for passenger rail. All the same, I'll not let that enthusiasm blind me to bad policy analysis. First, 500 people on the train need not be the equivalent of 500 cars on the highway, allowing for families traveling together. Second, under the circumstances most favorable to that one-to-one correspondence, namely the morning commute, 500 cars might not be on the highway to the central business district, but those cars are probably headed to a parking lot near the train station. (In Chicago, even if Metra were able to path a few more Naperville Zephyrs of a weekday morning, it is unlikely that many additional passengers would be able to locate parking near the train. And parking lots represent idle capacity and environmental degradation of a different form than the traffic jam.) Outside of the few cities where one might speak of a central business district, the investment in new commuter trains and latter-day interurbans might be misguided (insufficient travel to the few destinations the service touches to be cost-effective or to have much of an effect on traffic.)

A more comprehensive analysis of congestion released by the Federal Highway Administration suggests that two perpetual sore points with me, maltimed traffic lights and work zones, contribute more to road congestion than the few hundred people who might have occasion to ride a train to work. The former are often a consequence of ill-thought-out privatization (a developer builds a shopping center and helpfully pays for the traffic lights controlling mid-section access to the parking lots, but those lights are never timed with the timing of the signals on the existing section roads.) The latter is often a consequence of public decisions to rebuild an obsolete highway network under traffic. Why obsolete? Consider some observations by Samuel Staley of the Reason Foundation.

Travel demand has outstripped road building by 3 to 1 since 1980. Simply bringing capacity up to current levels of demand will go a long way toward reducing congestion.

But this is only part of the solution, and perhaps not even the most important. Simply laying more asphalt won't pave our way out of our slowing productivity and congestion mess. We need to pay a lot more attention to what kinds of roads we build, where we build them, and when they get built.

This is a bigger job than most people realize. In essence, it calls for a whole scale reconfiguration of our regional highway system.

The basic design of the current system—its DNA—was established by the federally funded Interstate Highway System laid on top of incremental expansions of local roads. This established a "hub and spoke" design, where large volume highways (spokes) would funnel people into a central employment center (the hub). Often, an outer beltway (rim) was created to connect the spokes leading to the hub.

I'm going to be a bit harsher than that. The Interstate Highway System we have today is the trunkline railroads of the 1920s. Think about it: Pennsylvania + Rock Island + Union Pacific + Southern Pacific = I-80. New Haven + Pennsylvania + Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac + Atlantic Coast Line = I-95. (The rest of the map is left to the reader as an exercise.) As Mr Staley notes,

This highway system served the needs of the mid-20th century city well when most people still worked and lived in the central city. The post-World War II era of suburbanization changed all that.

Now, fewer than 20 percent of travelers during peak periods are commuters. Most of those trips are not even going into the central city. Suburb-to-suburb trips dominate travel patterns. Central cities are no longer the economic drivers of regional economic growth. Indeed, the growth of suburban cities and "edge cities" has created more balanced regional economies.

Our transportation system and network needs to be similarly balanced. The hub and spoke system isn't suited for a modern economy where technology and employment allows for flexibility and decentralization, and where travel decisions are based on personal needs accommodated by the customized travel flexibility offered by the automobile.

That last sentence notes the real problem passenger rail advocates face. If there is a train headed for Real Chili in time for lunch, or toward the museum campus with convenient return times when the kids are ready for a nap, or to and from the office in a central business district, there is a potential public interest in providing those trains, or at least in not providing inefficiently many (or inefficiently few) roads. But it's a bit much to attribute the preferences of a study of traffic congestion to malice on the part of the highway lobby.
WE CAN DO BUSINESS WITH THEM. The 2006 "Rippers" for best rail transport agencies are up.
Awards are totally arbitrary, based in part on the quality of Construction Documents, relationships with Suppliers and Contractors, quality of Completed Projects, perceived value of their Patrons, and other totally subjective factors. Awards are limited to those agencies operating in the United States.
RUNNING ON NINE CORONAS? Coverage of the Brewers' come-from-behind win on Cerveceros Night includes the most important sports report.
In what might have been the biggest upset of the year in any sporting event, the new fifth sausage, the Chorizo, came in a weak third in the nightly race. The crowd on "Los Cerveceros" night booed heartily.
So what excuses do the experienced also-rans in 4th and 5th have?


EXCESSIVELY SELF-REFERENTIAL? Blogger has been hitting me with a "word verification" request as I make postings. Their help site explains that a weblog with lots of references to itself fits the profile of a "spam blog." Whatever. It takes me a lot longer to cross-reference the previous posts than it does to make the verification and publish the posts.


After the excitement of the Pacific Shoreliner and Southwest Chief adventures, I had to calibrate the experience properly. An inspection of the Hiawatha line was in order.

This is a heavily illustrated post.  Click below to enlarge.

NOT PHOTOSHOPPED. The picture is in a recent communication from the Inland Lake Yachting Association.

That's an A Scow towing a wakeboarder. The "M" on the sail refers to the Minnetonka Yacht Club. I have seen video of an E Scow towing a waterskier, as on one ski.

Ultimate one design, forsooth!
THE FLAGSHIP IS SWAMPED. Editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel want the University of Wisconsin system to stop sending promising youngsters out of state.
Too many of the state's top high school seniors are finding the doors to the top University of Wisconsin campus shut to them. As a result, they often leave the state to pursue their degrees. The danger is they won't come back - contributing to the state's brain drain.
(Weren't the policymakers and pundits fretting a few years ago about how many graduates got their degree and then pursued opportunities in other states? Current company included?)

Their recommendation: take away some of the sting of being rejected at Madison.
Officials must reverse this trend by expanding the number of Wisconsin students the Madison campus accepts and raising the stature of the Milwaukee campus.
But no matter what course you take, there will be unpleasant choices. No doubt the LaCrosse or Eau Claire campuses will weigh in with arguments for an upgrade from destroyer escort to heavy cruiser.
Both courses require the Legislature to put more money into the UW System, reversing the trend for cutbacks in state support.
And, presumably, making Milwaukee's research expectations, course standards, and faculty responsibilities more like Madison's. No doubt there will be some skepticism about expanded Ph.D. production.

Yes, once the Madison campus did admit more students but found the huge number stretched its resources too thin. Students attended too many large classes, and difficulty getting into required courses kept too many from graduating on time. So the university, with the blessing of the Legislature, trimmed its enrollment.

While perhaps a reasonable decision then - in the late 1980s - it's now time to change course, but in a way that doesn't lead to crowding. There are two choices: Expand the resources - specifically, the class space and the faculty. Or cut down on the number of out-of-state students on campus. Even the latter choice requires more state support since out-of-state students pay more than three times the tuition of in-state students.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were a convenient time to embark on such cutbacks, as the relatively small Thirteenth Generation was finishing high school, and the corporate fad of the era was downsizing and restructuring. But the downsizing mentality has persisted despite rising enrollments and rising premiums for technical degrees. And now the option of cutting back on offerings to scare away the Coastie money means higher state appropriations or higher tuitions (read smaller subsidies to people who will be earning more money.)

The editors, not surprisingly, favor more resources being spent on the Milwaukee campus.

Madison's undergraduate enrollment exceeded 30,000 altogether when officials determined to cut back. But they never did Step 2 of their plan: Make UW-Milwaukee a viable alternative to Madison, among the top research universities in the nation. Officials never gave the Milwaukee campus sufficient resources. They must do so now so that Wisconsin students have options.

As it happens, Chancellor Carlos Santiago is seeking to drastically step up research at UWM - a goal that dovetails nicely with the idea of making the campus a stronger alternative to Madison for top students. Lawmakers and UW officials must support that goal.

Carlos's problem is one of emulating Wayne State on a good day, something that is going to be difficult given the differing wishes of the business community, the local schools, and Milwaukee area public officials, let alone residents outside Milwaukee. Have the editorial writers in Oshkosh and Platteville weighed in with their wish lists?
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE. This evening the Milwaukee Brewers will wear "Cerveceros" jerseys, perhaps to make the racing chorizo feel at home. Real Debate Wisconsin has a picture (and a discussion thread that suggests it's not just angry Minnesotans that ought to lighten up.) The Journal-Sentinel's Jim Stingl subjects readers to extreme punishment. Dennis York (via Charlie Sykes) finds an illegal immigration angle.


ACROSS THE FIELDS. The mountain passes are behind us, and the Southwest Chief is on the home stretch on July 6. I'm up and about as the train is leaving Lawrence, a few minutes off schedule. The approach to Kansas City is slow, as the freight railroads are about their business exchanging cars. It's a good time for breakfast, much of the time spent making a stop that's included in the employee timetable at the fuel racks. Arrival at Kansas City 7:56:42 Central Daylight Time, again this is an approximate time. A small Southern Pacific 2-8-2, No. 745, and some cars of the Louisiana Steam Train Association are west of the station.

The Western Auto sign is a sure identifier of a Kansas City picture.

On the adjacent track is the consist of the afternoon St. Louis Mule, which provides the rail connection to Missouri River towns as far east as St. Louis. The Ann Rutledge for those towns as well as Alton, Springfield, and Chicago leaves at 7:30, a few minutes before the Chief's scheduled arrival. That's not quite as bad a gaffe as Amtrak's initial schedule, in which the National Limited for St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and New York left a few minutes ahead of the Chief, and there was no corridor train later in the day. But Amtrak and the railroads could do more for their credibility by scheduling trains to connect, and enforcing the discipline to make the connections more reliably. (Amtrak will not guarantee a connection with less than two hours between trains in Chicago. Although the Europeans pin Vienna to London in a day on six minutes in Cologne, there has to be a better solution. Send the Rutledge twenty minutes after the Chief arrives and make sure the connection stands up. There's an hour layover in St. Louis. There are neither border crossing formalities nor the Missouri Pacific handing off a train to the Alton. Come off it.)

A number of sleeping car passengers disembarked here, as did a sizeable troop of Scouts from Philmont. Departure from Kansas City at 8:16:32, 31'32" down.

Some steam servicing facilities remain at Marceline, Walt Disney's home town and supposedly the prototype for the Main Street portion of Disney theme parks.

La Plata 10:18:43 - 10:21:09. (The engineer reported his times as "sixteen-eighteen.")

The final stretch stop before Chicago is Ft. Madison, which is still a major terminal on Santa Fe.

Fort Madison 11:28:02 - 11:35:00. East of the station, one of the Santa Fe's big 4-8-4s, No. 2913, is preserved.

The last call for lunch comes out of Ft. Madison. The on-train service was exemplary. Special recognition to sleeping car attendant Sharon, who kept cheerful despite a bad cold, and to lounge car attendant Teresa, whose "I'm going on break so stock up now" and "I'm back from break and getting lonely" were helpful. Those positions are probably the most difficult to do well as the car attendants might be subject to call at any hour and the lounge car is open from 6:30 to 10:30 with short meal breaks.

Near Wyanet on Burlington tracks is the Hennepin Canal overpass.

This canal was an early application of concrete casting technologies later applied on the Panama Canal. Unfortunately, the Hennepin was built bigger than the old Illinois and Michigan canal and smaller than the Mississippi or Illinois River locks, rendering it uneconomic. It's a good linear park, with a towpath suitable for hiking or leisurely bike riding. You might want tires a bit more robust than those on a commuter bike and you'd probably have trouble training for a triathlon on it. (Perhaps a Hennepin photo study some day as it's practically in my back yard.)

The train was about 30 minutes late out of Galesburg, Princeton, Mendota, and Naperville, but there's a recovery margin from Naperville into Chicago.

The Sears Tower guards the south approach to Union Station.

Arrival Chicago about 3:16, four minutes to the good.


The dean at Anonymous Community responds to my suggestion that higher education go out of the remediation business.
The mischievous part of my mind likes it, which is usually a sign that it’s a bad idea.
For reasons that boil down to the Stiglerian argument that, no matter how much of a mess higher education is in, it is the best of all possible messes. Perhaps so. There is a strong presumption that the existing configuration of an industry, including a service industry, is an efficient configuration in the presence of sufficient choices. Newmark's Door reminds us, however, that alternatives, even alternatives that look bad, are sometimes out there against the day when they might be desirable.
Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
(Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, courtesy John J. Miller on The Corner.)

Messy as reality might be, the reality also is that higher education is in a crisis in which people engage in positional arms races to get away, not always successfully, from the remediation muddle. The dean recognizes some of this, yet comes off sounding much like a curmudgeon ("They despise change, even though they complain about the status quo.")
First, and most obviously, it’s unenforceable. How far back do we go? What if the student goes out-of-state? What if a cc raises its tuition, and the high school doesn’t have the money for the increase? What if the student only needs remediation in one subject, but needs to take 12 credits for the coveted “full-time status” that keeps them eligible for financial aid and/or their parents’ health insurance? (This is incredibly common.) How long before evil proprietaries swoop in, and offer to allow students to do an end-run around the forced march to the cc? (I ask that one as a former employee of a proprietary.) How many four-year schools would have the intestinal fortitude to send half of an incoming class away? How many would they actually get back? (In reality, we’d see exceptions for athletes, then for legacies, then for people willing to pay extra, then for the litigious, then for…) A college forced to choose between teaching remedial courses and laying off swaths of employees would probably choose the former, if past practice is any guide.
He's buried the lead in that "in reality" parenthetical. These are the steps by which higher education became corrupted. But corrupted it has become, and perhaps it is time to root out the current corruption before having conversations about how much integrity ought to be compromised in favor of better alumni relations.

On to the substance, point by point: When the flagship campuses are encouraging out-of-state enrollments, sometimes with merit scholarships, the first objection strikes me as of second-order importance. I could turn the second question around: Why aren't there futures markets and insurance and long term purchase-of-service contracts available against rate increases? Similarly, why aren't there concurrent registration contracts available? The tax status? Many universities offer no-credit remediation courses (Wisconsin's Math 099 comes to mind) which might be why the rule is twelve credits rather than fifteen or eighteen. The proprietaries? Why are those evil? The mistake many a mid-major has made in the past ten years has more often been attempting to emulate Phoenix rather than become more like Illinois or Wisconsin. (An aside on Wisconsin's efforts to steer applicants to campuses other than Madison: students and faculty will make common cause to make LaCrosse or Oshkosh or Whitewater more like Madison in research emphasis rather than a Phoenix or Wayne State on a bad day.) The lack of intestinal fortitude and the willingness to become College Lite? That's why we're in this pass in the first place.
Second, the taxpayers are still paying twice. Public high schools get their money from the taxpayers. If the high schools are suddenly billed by the cc, they’ll pay the bill with money raised from…wait for it…taxpayers. The substantive issue still stands.
Or suffer Tiebout migration or tax-limitation initiatives. Taxpayers are not passive sources of funds, work on migration-proofing public policies notwithstanding.
Third, what do we do with students from other countries (which probably wouldn’t honor the tuition agreement)? Older students? Students with GED’s? Who do we bill for a high-school dropout? Someone who graduated before the new rules kick in? Someone from the neighboring county or state? (If they’re exempted, I’d expect to see informal exchange programs suddenly flourish. Online teaching makes that possible.) Are ESL courses properly considered ‘remedial,’ if the student was never taught English in the first place?
In the language of Robert Ringer, interesting details, worthy of consideration and negotiation, but not deal-breakers.
Fourth, if No Child Left Behind has taught us anything, it has taught us that high schools with financial guns at their heads are willing to play all kinds of games with numbers and tests. Entire states are lowering their standards to avoid the federally-mandated penalties for not meeting state standards. Add college tuition to the penalties, and the cheating will skyrocket. You heard it here first.
With the end result being employers, some of whom are already requiring college board scores along with college transcripts, skipping the collegiate job fairs completely, recruiting out of the high schools, and setting up their own alternatives to universities to provide job-specific, and ONLY job-specific training. Like my colleague, I criticize much in higher education because there is much that I see worth protecting.
Fifth, an enterprising principal would do everything in her power to keep the risky kids from applying to college in the first place. Incentives cut both ways. I agree that college isn’t for everybody, but the opportunities for racial bias or linguistic bias or disability bias or just about any other bias you can name are just too glaring. Right now a high school can encourage each kid to go as far as his ability will take him; shift the incentive to reward early pruning, and early pruning ye shall have.
Complex Proposition alert! The problem in higher education is not one of insufficient entry, the problem is one of excessive entry, excessive remediation, and reality checks deferred but not diminished.
Sixth, the most powerful predictor of test performance, statistically speaking, is parental income. Overall, the lowest-income high schools would have the highest percentage of tuition penalties. Draining resources from the bottom of the economic ladder is not the way to improve academic performance there.
We have "lowest-income" high schools because school quality comes bundled with expensive houses in neighborhoods with snob zoning. Hence the popularity of school vouchers in poorer quarters of Milwaukee and Cleveland. It is precisely the high schools in the poorest districts that require the greatest inducements to better prepare their students. The current experiments, whatever they are, are unproductive.
And I’m all for constructive incentives, coupled with resources, to do that. I just don’t think this idea, as much fun as it is to think about, would work. The incentives, seemingly so straightforward at first blush, actually get pretty screwy if you try to apply them to messy reality.
That's the spirit in which I offered my original thoughts and the spirit in which I take these comments. That changes may appear "pretty screwy" is not necessarily reason to stop thinking along those lines, particularly when the status quo is not working.
SPEAKING OF CHORIZO. Some Thursday night food-blogging. Miller Park may now have a racing chorizo. There is also a soy-based chorizo that makes a decent taco filling. The cilantro, peppers, and lettuce are fresh out of the Victor E. Huskie Garden.

And so to suppertime.

TU QUOQUE? The Corporate Crime Reporter looks at Mayo Clinic v. Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern.

Running right next to the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester is a rail line.

And a small railroad -- the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) -- with powerful political connections wants a $2.5 billion loan from the federal government.

DM&E's president Kevin Schieffer wants to turn his little $220 million-a-year pipsqueak railroad into a major $1 billion-a-year coal-carrying behemoth.

He wants to carry the mega-tonnage of coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming through South Dakota and Minnesota and on to Chicago and then to coal-burning plants throughout the United States. The 2,800-mile line would run right through Rochester, Minnesota. Home to the Mayo Clinic.

And so, Dayton, and Forbes and Ryan gathered last week at the National Press Club to make their points to the national media.

The DM&E is an unsafe railroad, they said. In fact, they claim it has the worst safety record in its class of railroad. They say its accident record is more than double that of all railroads in its class. And it is one of only two railroads in America operating under a safety compliance agreement the Federal Railroad Administration.

Yes, its rail line currently runs right next to the Mayo Clinic. Trains run by there now, they concede -- but at a slow speed -- 10 to 15 miles per hour. If the company gets the loan to upgrade the line, the trains will run much faster than they run now -- 40 to 50 miles per hour.

In addition to carrying coal, they will carry hazardous materials. What if this accident-prone railroad has a hazmat accident, and there is a spill, or an explosion? Our patients, who fly here from around the world, would be put at risk. Can't you see?

And then Stephen Ryan of Manatt Phelps slaps DM&E with a Red Card: "This is an island of socialism in a sea of capitalism."

By which he means that DM&E is seeking a $2.5 billion government loan.

And so we asked Manatt's Ryan: Mr. Ryan, Manatt Phelps is a powerful Washington, D.C. law firm. Isn't it conceivable that Manatt Phelps has in the past represented other corporate entities who have sought bailouts from the federal government?

"No," Mr. Ryan says.


A five-second search found at least one example -- Manatt represented US Airways before the Congress in the post-9/11 bailout of the airline industry.

Maybe it's just a sea of corporate socialism?

Isn't rent-seeking wonderful? Mayo have their own history of misplaced corporate welfare.

Further into the report comes the possibility of a compromise. The DM&E system includes bits of the old Milwaukee Road. The coal could be routed off the Winona and St. Peter at Owatonna, and onto the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern's ex-Milwaukee line by way of Calmar and Marquette. That routing, however, does not offer as easy a connection to Canadian Pacific as the Rochester routing. (The Rochester routing also gets closer to Union Pacific and the Santa Fe, but those co-owners of the existing Powder River line are unlikely to short-haul themselves, Northern Tier politicians or not.)
AY, CHORIZO. The fifth racing sausage will be uno chorizo. The Electric Commentary's Paul Noonan is pleased.

As you all know, the single most enjoyable part of any Milwaukee Brewers' home game is the sausage race. The sausage race is great. Aside from being highly entertaining, it also teaches us that Germans wear lederhosen, Italians have gigantic mustaches, and Polish people where sunglasses and Freddy Krueger sweaters. I don't know why they do this, but apparently they do.

Today, the Brewers and Klement's Sausage Co. announced that they're adding a fifth sausage, the Mexican Chorizo. I'm extremely happy with this decision. For the most part, people of European ancestry do not get angry about their stereotypes. Italian people occasionally get ticked off about Mafia references, but that problem usually takes care of itself, if you get my drift.

I think it's a good choice, but I also remember Harvey's Wallbangers, which suggests a possible British candidate should a sixth sausage be contemplated.
PROTECTING COMPETITORS IS NOT PROTECTING COMPETITION. A Wisconsin retailer avoids offering shoppers a price break on gasoline.

Woodman's Food Markets, which operates 11 stores in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, next week will end its program of shaving the price of gasoline by 3 cents a gallon for those who show a Woodman's grocery receipt when they buy gas. Instead, drivers will get $1 off when they buy $30 of gas and show a $50 receipt for groceries.

Woodman's President Phil Woodman said the company made the change because the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would not give it a clear answer on whether its policy adhered to the minimum markup statute. That Depression-era law was designed to keep large gas retailers from squeezing out small ones.

Politicians are acting like, well, politicians.

The law requires that gas at the pump be at least 9.18% above the price at the terminal. Retailers can go below that markup to meet a competitor's price, however.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans in the state Senate defeated a measure in May that would have ended the minimum markup law. Woodman's lobbied for the bill; Kwik Trip lobbied against it.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle supports the repeal of that law. A spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Green Bay, who is running against Doyle, said Green would support changing the markup law if doing so would lower gas prices.

(Via The American Mind.)

Chicago aldermen are also supporting their constituents' right to pay higher prices at independent retailers. John Kass quotes a dissenter.

Chicago aldermen blew out all the pretty candles in a 35-14 veto-proof vote, passing the big-box ordinance that will lead to a $10-per-hour starting salary for unskilled workers at select Chicago stores.

The measure was backed by the city's labor unions and opposed by Daley, who had never lost a vote to a council that he has, until Wednesday, appointed, intimidated and dominated.

As public policy, the big-box ordinance is certainly unconstitutional. It is an insidious attempt by Chicago politicians to squeeze businesses that hoped to open new markets--particularly underserved minority neighborhoods--while providing tax revenue and thousands of desperately needed jobs to unskilled workers, many of them black and Latino.

"I've got these white liberals telling me what's good for my community. But this big-box thing will cost black people jobs," Ald. Ike Carothers (29th) told me during Wednesday's pontifications.

The mayor recognizes the incentives.

At his news conference afterward, Daley said Chicago is in dire need of sales tax revenue that flees to the suburbs as big boxes open up on the city's borders.

"I have to keep sales tax here somewhere," the mayor said. "It can't be all on Michigan Avenue."

Your law. My bargain. We shall see which is stronger.
SO STAY HOME AND GRIPE. It's summertime, and we can depend on Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Susan Lenfestey to go someplace and be miserable.

Back home in Minneapolis I start the day with the media equivalent of bran and hardtack. My teeth grind, my stomach knots and the little needle on my rage meter pings over to the red zone.

Up here I take my coffee looking out at Lake Huron, a sweep of clear, fresh water that shimmers over the distant horizon like the world's biggest infinity pool, which in a way it is. After the religious wars and the oil wars -- if there is an after -- they say it'll be the water wars, which puts those of us situated in the middle of the five Great Lakes sort of in the catbird seat. Or in a war zone.

But she has the misfortune to go holidaymaking on Mackinac, with what appears to be the Detroit to Mackinac about to finish.

Every year hundreds of sailboats race up Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, a trip taking anywhere from one to three days, depending on the wind and the size of the boat. The 80-foot turbo yachts finish first, looking like something out of a bad Kevin Costner movie with their sinister high-tech ash-black sails, and then the smaller boats with old-fashioned white sails straggle in, crisscrossing the straits like flittering moths.

It's all very pretty, except for the TV news choppers whirling overhead and the cannon that fires as each boat crosses the line.

These sailors come ashore with an all-too-familiar swagger of privilege, claiming dehydration and sexual deprivation from their weekend ordeal on the open water. Unlike their less lucky counterparts stuck in, say, the 115-degree heat of Iraq, these guys have free Bacardi rum and a whole slew of sturdy Michigan Girls Gone Wild, bare midriffs and breasts billowing like spinnakers, to slake their various thirsts.

Cry. Me. A. Great Lake.

Shot in the Dark was also less than impressed with the column.



Creepy, indeed. More at Kool Aid Report.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR THE RICH. The results are in for the Mackinac Race. There is a prize for getting there first.

Windquest, an 86-foot vessel that was the largest in the fleet of 300 sailboats, arrived in Michigan early Monday morning to capture the Royono Trophy in the 98th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.

The trophy is presented to the first monohull across the finish line regardless of boat size or category.

Strong headwinds on Lake Michigan limited the pace of the race that began Saturday in Chicago, and when Windquest reached Mackinac Island at 1:23 a.m., the elapsed time for the Tom Giesler-captained boat owned by Illinois' Doug DeVos was 34 hours 43 minutes 23 seconds.

That was about 11 hours slower than the 2002 record set by Pyewacket.

Windquest was cheered to shore by a small group of fans, more than six hours ahead of the runner-up, Chicago-based Nightmare.

Windquest also finished ahead of a storm that buffeted most of the other boats still on the lake.

"They beat the rain," race spokeswoman Christie Kirchner said. "They had headwinds the whole way. The winds and seas made for a challenging race."

Yes, a 333-mile beat is work. Windquest apparently set a record for velocity made good. But after handicapping, neither Windquest nor Nightmare win the race.
Eagle, owned by a family from Chicago, has won the Mackinac Cup, the top prize for the larger boats finishing the 98th running of the Race to Mackinac.The boat, owned by Jerry and Shawn O'Neill, finished the 333-mile race with a time of 43 hours, 28 minutes, 1 second.
Time adjustment rules. Pah. I'll stick to one-designs, where second place is first last. Check out the ultimate one design!
CARNIVAL CALL. Carnival of Education No. 95(8) calls at Text Savvy, where the sidebar is almost as intriguing as this week's bannerline.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. University Diaries, on David Brooks.
Brooks, on view in today's New York Times, is a realist. He doesn't think you should - like most European countries - throw money at your university system and then look firmly away from the results. He thinks Americans, for instance, should notice that despite all sorts of government money, the college graduation rate remains unchanged:
Yup. (And thanks for the reference!)
UH-OH. The Tour de France, otherwise known as Better Riding through Chemistry?

Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race, his Phonak team said Thursday.

The statement came a day after the UCI, cycling's governing body, said an unidentified rider had failed a drug test during the Tour.

The Swiss-based Phonak said in a statement on it Web site that it was notified by the UCI Wednesday that Landis' sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after stage 17 of the race last Thursday.

It was on that mountain stage where Landis staged a stunning solo breakaway to overcome a huge deficit and put himself in position to win the Tour.

"The team management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result," the statement said.

Phonak said Landis would ask for analysis of his backup "B" sample "to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake."

Landis has been suspended by the team pending the results. If the second sample confirms the initial finding, he will be fired from the team, Phonak said.

And Mr Landis has gone missing from two races. (Via Drudge, where Tour de Dope is getting second billing to a rocket attack on an Israeli cemetery.) Developing.


A DIFFERENT MANIFESTATION OF NOSTALGIA FOR THE FIFTIES. Fortune's Marc Gunther gripes, "the explosion of choice has left us poorer." In particular, the end of concentration has been bad for journalism and politics.
I think the explosion of choice has left us poorer in at least two arenas. The first is journalism. (Yes, as a Fortune writer, I've got a stake in the health of the mainstream media, which bloggers call the MSM.) The network evening newscasts, big-city newspapers and the national news magazines once had the money, access, skills, commitment and power to deliver lots of original reporting and put important issues on the national agenda. Today, they are all diminished.
That rates a dissenting thesis on Newmark's Door.
Why do I suspect that the real complaint here is that yes, Conservatives more or less used to have to read the New York Times and the Washington Post and watch ABC, CBS, and NBC, but now--damn it all--we don't?
Or, as a commenter to the post suggests, Fifties nostalgia isn't just for conservative white folks. The "excessive choice" hypothesis must have been breakfast conversation at the Newmark house, as Betsy's Page is similarly unimpressed with the "excess choice" argument.
I always laugh at these people who moan and groan about how bad it is that we have more choice and competition in any market. Just go into any grocery store and note how many new products there are that weren't there 10 years ago. They might not be choices that you like and I'm sure Coke and Pepsi would prefer that we only had two major beverage suppliers, but the rest of us benefit. And if all the choices are paralyzing you, just go back to buying the same old stuff you always bought.
Economics, unfortunately, has not yet come up with robust welfare analyses of choice. The standard competitive model achieves Pareto efficiency with multiple sellers of interchangeable products serving multiple consumers. The most precise formulation of this problem has infitesimal producers of identical products serving a continuum of consumers. Product variety introduces efficiency losses. Concentrated industries (Coke and Pepsi, Westinghouse and G.E., three major networks, six flag-carrier airlines) can lessen competition, collude at Dirty Helen's, or share monopolies. But that hasn't stopped economists from contemplating the socially optimal level of product differentiation (Kelvin Lancaster, 1975) or optimum product diversity (Avinash Dixit and Joseph Stiglitz, 1977) or possible social inefficiencies in free-entry markets with standard products (N. Gregory Mankiw and Michael Whinston, 1986.) [Superintendent's note: texts of the articles require a JSTOR subscription.] That a diversity of models of product variety exist hints at the difficulty of characterizing allocative efficiency away from the limiting case of infinitesimals on a continuum. Reality is a bit more lumpy.

But economics might have something to say about Mr Gunther's second complaint.
The second arena where we are worse off is politics. This is related to journalism, as the moderate and responsible (okay, bland) voices of the MSM get drowned out by partisan, opinionated cableheads and bloggers.

Politics in America has become polarized for many reasons, but a big one is the fact that people can now filter the news and opinion they get to avoid exposure to ideas with which they disagree. Anderson suggests that this could well be a temporary problem, and that if the major parties continue to move to the extremes and the quality of debate continues to deteriorate, the Internet could well enable a new party or parties, to arise.
Not necessarily. The existence of new political media cannot by itself cause political parties to move to the extremes. The median voter theorem suggests that a party wins by catering to the median voter and all voters holding views ranging from slightly more extreme to the most extreme left or right of that voter, leading to minimum differentiation. In consequence, there's not a dime's worth of difference between two major parties. Governor Wallace recognized what Harold Hotelling and Anthony Downs made rigorous.

But the median voter theorem is the consequence of an undercutting problem inherent in simple preference mappings such as "prefer the party whose position is closest to mine." Make the voter's preference mapping one in which the distaste for a party increases with the square of the difference between the voter's position and the parties, and minimum differentiation is invalid but polarization is an equilibrium (C. d'Aspremont et. al., 1979). Consider more subtle specifications of the preference mapping and something other than polarization is the equilibrium, but minimum differentiation is still lost (Nicholas Economides, 1986.)
ON OTHERS' WORKBENCHES. The Thomas Institute has called out Roundhouse Roundup No. 2. Modelers in smaller scales are reporting in, as are families bringing up the next generation of train enthusiasts.

The next Roundhouse is called for August 28, and there might be some progress from down cellar to bring to their attention by then.
THE WATER IS SAFELY INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE FLUME. A commenter to this report on flooding at Knoebels Grove asks whether the park will have to add a new high water mark. Knoebels are open for business, with a picture page showing the midway under water, the cleanup the next day, and open for business two days later. The water does not appear to have risen as high as it did during Hurricane Agnes or a flood during the 1930s. I looked, without success, in my photo files for pictures of the high water marks, which are near the covered bridge that's at top right of the park's flood page. If memory serves, those high water marks are above the bridge railing. High water at the end of June is several feet short of that.


IF THEY DON'T WIN IT'S A SHAME. No posting Monday because I had a sausage race to attend.

Rumor has it there will soon be another racing sausage.

The chorus of The Beer Barrel Polka.

One could almost use rapid transit to reach Miller Park from the easterly reaches of the parking lot. The old County Stadium was well west of the freeway, with almost all parking between the freeway and the stadium. Miller Park is on the old parking lot, with the freeway relocated a bit to the east, and parking lots on both the Milwaukee Road arrival yards and the site of the old coach shop.

The Highland Cardinals from a small high school near Madison were recognized for winning the Division 4 softball championship.

There was a major league baseball game amidst all the peripheral entertainment. The Brewers prevailed 12-8. Here's the ritual after one of Bill Hall's two home runs. Carlos Lee also hit one.

This conference, either to buy time for the relief pitcher to warm up or to determine the location for the post-game pizza, occurred after another home run.

It was a pleasant evening for baseball, with the roof open all night.
UH-OH. The Northern Star interviews new provost Raymond W. Alden III.

NS: What changes do you want to make at Northern?

RA: I think what I heard during the interview process was an interest in developing more strategic plans so that as we go into the future, we focus on certain areas that are agreed upon as areas that need to have greater development. I think that's an important aspect of higher education in general, particularly during times nationally when there's financial difficulties, so that when resources are relatively scarce, you make sure you maintain excellence and you grow in areas that are particularly important for the institution and for the state.

Catch that Divine Passive "that are agreed upon?"

NS: Where do you see NIU in five years?

RA: I think a lot depends on the strategic planning process because that's the first thing you start asking once you have a mission statement, a statement of strategic goals. Then you start to build what your direction is, where you're going to want to end up. I think it would be premature for me to say, "This is the game plan," because that represents the entire university community, starting with the president's vision, all the way through the faculty and it has to be done in a shared manner. So I see the strategic planning process as not top down. It is everybody kind of reaching a consensus with this mission and vision in mind... I think that's part of what needs to be done over the next year or two, to engage students, faculty, staff, obviously the president's cabinet in those kind of discussions of "Here we are now. What do we want to be? What are our areas of strength? What do we want to be known for in 10 years?" What do both the student population and the university community in terms of faculty and staff and the external stakeholders want the university to become?

The problem with a consensus is that it has to be too bland to constitute much of a commitment, unless it's administrative fiat.

But if anybody asks me for ideas, I'll offer a few.

NS: You said that you liked the growth of NIU when you were being interviewed for the provost position. What were some of the things that stood out about NIU's growth?

RA: I think there are a number of things obviously. Even during times of financial hardship, there were great things happening - some of the connections we've talked about in big science and a lot of the opportunities of looking at a student population whose characteristics are improving in terms of having better graduation rates, retention rates and so forth and yet still having the outreach opportunity to make sure that individuals who may have been disadvantaged because of socioeconomic reasons or preparation reasons in the K through 12 system are still given the opportunity to come here and given the infrastructure to help them succeed.

I think having some of those characteristics, having the potential to develop the research connections and the engagement in this tremendous community stood out. You can drive around and see the technology quarter coming out from Chicago and obviously NIU could be an effective anchor for that. You have a growing population and lots of potential in terms of serving that population. So, I think research engagement and academic excellence stood out.

Quite frankly, when I spoke to the students, they were all very excited. I think that's the one thing that stood out. Everybody seemed quite positive despite financial hardships and I know that in some institutions, that climate and culture is just not there.

Many of these things have happened despite anybody's efforts to add or detract. Don't mess it up.

NS: How would you describe your leadership style?

RA: I believe in building consensus. I think to get input from all stakeholder groups is important, but I think leaders have to be willing to make the hard decision when the time comes. You can't be just laissez-faire and let things happen. I think that doesn't produce any sort of forward movement or productivity. I think it's a combination of things. I think I'm a good listener and I think I can read situations pretty well, just because I have experience in that area. Yet I do know that at some point in time, provosts and other leaders of universities do have to make hard decisions. You have to be willing to do that, but only after you've gathered all the evidence and made the decision on what's in the best interest of the institution.

We shall see.

A sidebar notes that the new provost's favorite book is The World is Flat, which I reviewed last August, and which UCLA's Edward E. Leamer has treated less than favorably for the Journal of Economic Literature. (Leamer review link courtesy Newmark's Door.)
ARBITRAGE WILL OUT. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, bread could be obtained more cheaply from the bakery than feed grains could be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture storehouses. Collective farms purchased the bread for use as animal feed, contributing to bread shortages. (On .pdf, scroll down to page 3.)

In the Sweet Land of Subsidy, things work a little bit differently, according to a Washington Post report linked by Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok.

When a drought left pastures in a handful of Plains states parched in 2003, ranchers turned to the federal government for help. Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture quickly responded with what they considered an innovative plan.

They decided to dip into massive stockpiles of powdered milk that the agency had stored in warehouses nationwide as part of its milk price-support program. Livestock owners could get the protein-rich commodity free and feed it to their cattle and calves. The milk would help ranchers weather the drought while the government reduced its growing stockpile.

But within months, the program spawned a lucrative secondary market in which ranchers, feed dealers and brokers began trading the powdered milk in a daisy chain of transactions, generating millions of dollars in profits. Tens of millions of pounds of powdered milk intended solely for livestock owners in drought-stricken states went to states with no drought or were sold to middlemen in Mexico and other countries, a Washington Post investigation found.

This activity was completely illegal.

One government inspector stumbled upon huge cargo containers being loaded with the milk at the Port of Houston. The destination: Europe. A New Zealand official complained to USDA officials that American brokers were flooding her country with the powdered milk, undercutting local dairy suppliers. Still other records show the milk going to the Netherlands and the Philippines.

"The milk was being bought and sold, bought and sold. Some of it was probably ending up in dog food and pet food," said Matthew J. Hoobler, a Wyoming official who oversaw the distribution of more than 60 million pounds of powdered milk in that state. That trading was possible, he said, because "there was no enforcement."

Tons of the surplus milk entered the commercial market in one of two ways. Some states ended up ordering more powdered milk than ranchers could use and then auctioned the rest to brokers. And ranchers sold powdered milk they didn't want or need back to feed dealers, who marked it up and sold it to other dealers or brokers.

In its contracts with eligible states, the Agriculture Department required that the milk be used to feed cattle within the state's borders. The trading itself was not illegal, but shipping the milk outside of the states violated the rules.

Even when agriculture officials learned that the product was being diverted, however, there was little they could do. The USDA had allocated the milk directly to the states, and state officials did not have the resources to track the middlemen. In any case, penalties were nonexistent.

Your law. My arbitrage opportunity. Penalty? Discuss.
If we spent one tenth the energy working on high school graduation rates, we'd have both a more powerful impact on the truly disadvantaged and a more significant impact on college attendance. The problem is, the middle class and the upper class aren't worried about their kids graduating from high school, and so talk of those problems doesn't resonate with large swaths of the electorate. And that all points to the underlying dynamic here and elsewhere in Democratic rhetoric: Progressives now try to address poverty in the context of the middle class -- they seek out economic issues which could aid the poor but have plenty of relevance up the income ladder. In doing, they ignore the most destructive and entrenched pathologies and problems, as those tend to be rather rare among higher income earners, and for that reason much more damaging to those caught in their grip. The ultimate problem here is that the poor rarely votes, while the middle class does, and it's damn hard for politicians to figure out how to focus the electorate on things that aren't their problem.
But it is their problem. Residential self-segregation and housing premiums for good school districts and restrictive zoning codes to limit the enrollment in the high schools and the positional arms races to get into the fifty or so colleges claiming to be in the U.S. News top ten are all reactions to those "destructive and entrenched pathologies," no?
WHAT REPUTATION ARE THEY PROTECTING? Greg Lukianoff at The Torch discovers there is no administrative ukase beyond the possible.
I have been working in this field for a long time now, and I would like to say that nothing surprises me anymore, but today’s release about a college professor denied promotion explicitly because of his outside writings criticizing the university’s student conduct code, affirmative action, and student conduct policies is really something else.

I am not exactly shocked that a public university would engage in viewpoint discrimination against a professor or student for voicing unpopular opinions. Sadly, this happens all too often. Nor am I particularly surprised that a professor was denied a promotion because of his political point of view—I receive frequent reports of this behavior.
Some specifics:
[Stephen] Kershnar, an associate professor of philosophy, was nominated for promotion to full professor in January 2006, with strong support from his colleagues, department head, and top administrators, because of his outstanding professional record. An outspoken member of the Fredonia community, Kershnar writes a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper, in which he questioned Fredonia’s affirmative action practices and examined the lack of conservatives in higher education. In 2005, Kershnar publicly condemned a new rule that targets students who fail to report violations of the student conduct code. He was quoted in a Buffalo News article saying the new policy would “turn the student population into a group of snitches.”

SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner issued a letter to the university community defending the conduct policy against “media misrepresentations.” Kershnar e-mailed the SUNY Fredonia faculty e-mail list on the following day to say that he had criticized—not misrepresented—the policy. Hefner replied to that e-mail by warning Kershnar, “You need to start acting like a responsible member of this campus community.”
There is more, and less, to this case than meets the eye. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sees an unprecedented crushing of dissent. Perhaps so.
“President Hefner made Kershnar’s academic promotion—which should by all accounts be based upon his merits as a professor—dependent upon his public statements about the university,” Lukianoff stated. “FIRE, along with others who care about academic freedom, will not stand idly by as a public university punishes a professor for speaking his mind and then requires him to relinquish his constitutional and moral right to express his opinions.”

On April 27, Hefner sent Kershnar a letter denying his promotion. Hefner explained that although Kershnar’s “teaching has been described as excellent,” he would not be promoted because of his “deliberate and repeated misrepresentations of campus policies and procedures…to the media,” which Hefner claimed “impugned the reputation of SUNY Fredonia.”
But the promotion-denial letter is instructive. Professor Kershnar was put up for early promotion, which usually means associate-to-professor in fewer than seven years. President Hefner vetoes the promotion on grounds of uncollegiality. "One item listed as a positive in your submission, membership on the Student Judicial Board, was actually a negative, as you were disruptive and a non-helpful participant. Requests were made that you not be reappointed." So at Fredonia Elementary, "plays well with others" is more important than effective teaching and scholarship?
QUOTE OF THE DAY. A Daniel Drezner doubleheader.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mathew H. Gendle engages in one of the more useless acts of self-flagellation about globalization I've seen in quite a while:
Like many liberal-arts institutions, the university where I teach [Elon] places a heavy emphasis on the freshman year, and all new students are required to take a class called "The Global Experience," taught by faculty members drawn from departments across the campus. One of the central objectives of the course is to break students out of their bubble by forcing them to think about the interconnectedness of our world...
Professor Drezner asks the question the author doesn't ask.
If Gendle wants to make his Elon students really ponder their consumer behavior, here's a question worth asking -- what is the welfare effect of not purchasing goods and services made in the least developed countries?
IN TIME FOR BACK TO SCHOOL. Via Charlie Sykes, "Shut Up and Teach," by The Right Brothers.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR. The Santa Fe Railroad went to a great deal of trouble to secure the Raton Pass crossing of the southern Rockies in order to secure a route from Kansas to the north end of the Santa Fe Trail. The bad news, however, is that the railroad had to chop its way across Glorieta Pass to get close to Santa Fe. (The Denver and Rio Grande, Santa Fe's rival for the Santa Fe Trail traffic, did secure the Royal Gorge and built a narrow-gauge line including a very long straight track from Alamosa into Santa Fe.)

Continuing passengers have reboarded Train 4, and we're ready to go, but first a Roadrunner.

Passenger Rail reports that the Albuquerque commuter trains went into service July 14. We leave Albuquerque 12:48:56 (Mountain Daylight Times approximate. I was not able to find a standard clock in Albuquerque to set my watch properly.)

Lamy for Santa Fe 1:52:18 - 1:56:22.

East of Lamy, the ascent of Glorieta Pass, which was the location of a pivotal battle in the War Between The States, begins.

Both trains are close to time, and the meet with westbound 3 that left Chicago on 4 July is just after 2 pm.

The station at the summit of Glorieta Pass is now the town's post office.

Down the east slope, through some small canyons, across some flats, start climbing again. There is a double-horseshoe curve near Ribera that rates mention in the route guide.

By this time, the lounge car had filled sufficiently with train experts that everybody was ready for their snapshots of the second turn to the east.

Passenger loads were fairly heavy. I didn't have occasion to walk through the coaches but did notice large numbers of people strolling at the designated rest stops. The sleepers were sold out. One family disembarked at Williams and another got on ... not much time to change the bedding there. Some passengers expressed a preference for the sleeping cars to the crowding in coach (on western trains, often a rougher crowd) and the trials of attempting to sleep when there is constant traffic through the aisles, even on the long stretches between stops.

Las Vegas 3:48:37 - 3:49:35

A few of the original Harvey Houses remain at trackside. The Castaneda, one of the larger hotels, is derelict. (Albuquerque's bus station complex is a re-creation.)

There's another flat stretch east of Las Vegas before the assault on Raton Pass begins. The Wagon Mound is a prominent landmark. From the sides it looks a little like a stylized wagon and team. Close up, it has the cross-section of a prairie schooner.

Raton 5:30:00 - 5:36:07.

Raton is the station for the Philmont Scout camp, and there were a few uniforms in coach from here east. It was raining rather heavily on the pass and I had a 5:45 dinner reservation (grilled chicken) thus no pictures.

The Santa Fe appears to be using Raton as a staging area for baretables. That is probably the best use of what is to them becoming a superfluous property. Baretable trains and the two scheduled passenger trains can run at comparable speeds. The Pass itself has some of the steeper grades on any mainline railroad, and it is flanked on both sides by tracks once maintained for 100 mph running. The legislation creating Amtrak required Santa Fe and successor companies to maintain the tracks in that condition for 25 years. The line has since been downgraded to a 79 mph operation with automatic block signals, including a few upper quadrant semaphores, and track warrant control. It's likely that Santa Fe will again ask Amtrak for a re-route. Perhaps some compromise in which Santa Fe builds a loop line into Albuquerque from the Transcontinental Corridor and Amtrak provides money for some strategic triple tracking on the Lawrence-Amarillo-Belen (the historic route of the San Francisco Chief) is in the offing. (Yes, and American League pitchers will bat.)

Despite the toned-down schedule, the overall running time is still close to the old Super Chief, and there's again an ample recovery margin coming off the mountain.

La Junta 7:55:34 - 8:25:25. My notes show "2-6-2 1024 on display." A number of these passenger Prairies are preserved along the Santa Fe.

The engine crew had ample time to compare notes and hand over the train and the on-board train crew time for a stretch and a smoke. (I'll have more to say about the on-board service, which was very good, in the final post in the series. For now I note that the car attendants and the snack bar tender have quite an endurance test on a transcontinental train, with the snack bar open from 6:30 to 10:30 and the car attendants potentially subject to call at any time.)

I purchased a half-bottle of wine with dinner, and a quarter-bottle on departing La Junta. All of that put me in the mood for an early turn-in.

Lamar 9:12:18 - 9:16:51. I heard the train crew copy a warrant before we left.

(To be continued)
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. The University of Wisconsin is getting more selective.

Flash back 25 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and you'd find admissions standards that are sure to shock aspiring Badgers of today.

The university guaranteed admission to all high school graduates in the top half of their class. It accepted more than 80% of applicants.

That was in the depths of Jimmy Carter's recession. It was also when the Thirteenth Generation started enrolling in college, and there was plenty of excess capacity built for the baby boomers.

Now students are discouraged from applying without a grade-point average from 3.5 to 3.9, an ACT score of at least 26 and a class rank in the 85th to 96th percentiles. The acceptance rate for Wisconsin residents is 65%. No student is guaranteed a spot in the freshman class, no matter how good his or her grades are.

"I had a student who was denied admission last year with a 3.7 GPA, six Advanced Placement courses and a 27 on the ACT," said Curt Cattanach, college adviser at Whitefish Bay High School. "We're frank with our students: UW-Madison has become very selective."


"Middle- and upper-income families became engaged in an arms race with their neighbors to prepare their children for college," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "You started to see crop after crop of amazing applicants."

The state's flagship university became especially attractive as the cost of private universities rose higher and higher.

Between 1985 and 2005, annual in-state tuition at UW-Madison jumped from $1,391 to $6,284. The cost of a four-year degree at a typical private university climbed to more than $100,000. Top students in Wisconsin who once would have set their sights on elite private universities began opting for the bargain instead.

Can you say regressive transfers?

"We didn't want to become elite," said Rob Seltzer, UW-Madison's director of admissions. "We were forced to become more selective."

But not all students faced tougher odds. The acceptance rate for students from outside of Wisconsin and Minnesota increased from 61% to 76%.

Seltzer said that was because only a quarter of out-of-state students who are accepted decide to enroll, compared with 63% of in-state students and 45% of Minnesota students.

But there is another reason why students from out of state have had an easier time getting in: The university has been working to enroll more of them.

Non-residents pay about three times the tuition that students from Wisconsin and Minnesota pay. UW System policy allows up to 25% of UW-Madison undergraduates to be from outside of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The university has yet to reach that limit.

With state support becoming a shrinking percentage of its budget, the university needs non-resident tuition to help pay the bills.

Sound familiar?
THE BALL AND BAR. Union Pacific has unveiled a heritage painted diesel in a modified Chicago and North Western lightning stripe paint job. (Cynics would say Union Pacific has launched another preemptive strike against its constituent railroads' trademarks becoming public domain.)

Aggieland Rail Scene offers additional pictures.


IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. But when Ends of the Line goes to Manhattan, what "it" and "come" refer to aren't clear.
At the Metra station, built in 2005 to extend the line out from Orland Park, 16 cars sat in a parking lot built to accommodate 260. And there's room for expansion to 500 spaces. The station isn't staffed but has time locks that open 15 minutes before arrivals and stay open 15 minutes after the train leaves.
The caption to this Chicago Tribune photograph by Bob Fila explains why I'm not likely to file a Manhattan trip report any time soon.

Trains to Chicago stop at 6:02 and 6:52 a.m., with return trains stopping at 6:27 and 7:07 p.m.

Ends of the Line is next going to use the interurban time machine.
SEEKING SEWER SOCIALISTS. A Chicago Tribune editorial includes this bit of what might most charitably be called slacker logic, or as my dad would put it, "Why compare yourself to the worst?"

The garbage is picked up on time. In the winter, the streets are plowed quickly after each snowfall. In the spring, an army of gardeners nurtures the flowers budding in hundreds of municipal planters across the city.

Chicago is an efficient city. Decisions are made and carried out with dispatch.

If memory serves, one machine-anointed mayor was voted out of office for failure to manage the snows correctly. And what was I saying about never lacking for work? Efficiency is identifying and acting on all possible games from trade. Decisions can be reached quickly, but they don't have to be efficient, or even effective? Can you say Reign of Terror, dear reader?

That's the way it works in a one-party town, particularly in a place with one-man rule. No pesky debates to worry about. No need for compromise or consensus. No messy democracy to get in the way.

There is a price to pay, though: Corruption.

Yes, and heads sometimes roll, mon ami (tovarisch, for my readers in Piter.) But I don't recall anyone ever suggesting that Frank Zeidler, or his successor Henry Maier, were on the take. But the trash and garbage were picked up, and the parks were tidy, and the snow was cleared (the rubbish trucks doubled as plows.)

And let's not conflate corruption with public choice.
When there's no opposition party to provide checks and balances to the ruling group, corruption is unavoidable. There was corruption in the Soviet Politburo, and in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and in the inner circle of Roman Emperor Nero. If Attila the Hun had kept any records, they'd surely show skullduggery by his aides.
Sure, because conspiring to fleece the taxpayer is more rewarding than doing the taxpayer's bidding. (Therein lies the Republican coalition's discontent with the Republican Congress. There's plenty of money for the districts of influential Members, but little progress on deregulation for the libertarians or abortion for the believers and some of the recipients of corporate welfare still vote Democratic.)

But that doesn't stop the editorialists from engaging in flights of fancy.

In a two-party city, debate would happen. Things wouldn't run as efficiently. That might impact garbage collection and snow removal. Not so many flowers might be planted.

But it certainly would make it harder for officeholders to lie, cheat, steal and defraud.

Maybe that would be its own kind of efficiency.

I've heard my friendly connection Milt Rosenberg sometimes advance this "Chicago works because there's corruption" argument. But there might be a good Extension 720 program (no, Sean, I'm not going to do a regular show prep feature here) on whether corruption is either necessary or sufficient for municipal services to run well.